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Friday, October 10, 2014

Who is eligible for FMLA?

Do you live in Georgia, and wonder if you can take time off from work to recover from a serious health condition or take care of a family member?  As an employment law attorney located just south of Atlanta in Henry County, I am often asked questions about Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) regulations in Georgia.  Here are answers to some common questions:

Who is eligible for FMLA? 

Employers in every state, including Georgia, are subject to the federal FMLA, which allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave if they fulfill certain requirements.  In Georgia, FMLA applies to all public agencies, including federal, state and local employers and public school employees.  

Private company employers and employees must meet the following requirements to qualify for FMLA leave in Georgia:

  • The employer is required comply with the FMLA if it has at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year.

  • The employer has at least 50 employees located within a 75-mile radius

  • The employee must have worked for the company for at least a year, and

  • The employee worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year

The reason given for the requested FMLA leave must also meet certain eligibility requirements, such as needing time off to:

  • recuperate from a serious health condition (see below for details)

  • care for a family member with a serious health condition

  • bond with a new child

  • handle qualifying needs due to a family member’s military service, or

  • care for a family member who suffered a serious injury during active duty in the military.

What qualifies as a “serious health condition?”

Under FMLA, a “serious health condition” is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves significant medical care.  The first thing that comes to mind for most people is pregnancy and prenatal care, which qualifies as a serious health condition.  However, FMLA is not limited to recovery time - inpatient care or treatment for a chronic serious health condition, permanent or long-term incapacity for a condition for which treatment may not be effective, such as a terminal illness also qualifies.  The “three day rule” applies if someone has incapacity for more than three full days with continuing treatment by a health care provider, or a condition that would require an absence of more than three days if not treated.  Finally, FLMA also considers multiple treatments for restorative surgery following an injury or accident as a valid reason for taking leave. 

Do I have to take FMLA time all at once?  Or can I spread out the days as needed?

Employees protected by FMLA can take all the time at once, or intermittently, depending on the condition and the treatment.  For example, a series of restorative surgeries after an accident may use a few days or weeks intermittently throughout the year.  Or physical therapy may require one day a week.  On the other hand, the days may be taken consecutively, such as new mothers taking up to 12 continuous weeks to bond with their newborn baby. 

How much time is available if I meet all of the FMLA requirements?

Employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period.  The time renews every 12 months, as long as the employee continues to meet the eligibility requirements outlined above.

Employees who need military caregiver leave are eligible for more time, as they may take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period. However, this leave is granted on a per-injury, per-service member basis. Unless the same family member is injured again, or another family member suffers an injury while on active duty, an employee may not take an additional leave for this reason.

What should I do if I want to take FMLA leave?

First, you should notify your manager and/or HR department if you think you may need to take FMLA leave from work.  Request a copy of your company’s FMLA policy and the forms you’ll need to fill out and submit. The FMLA requires that both employers and employees submit notice and supporting information, so it’s important to complete these steps.

What should I do if my employer retaliates against me for requesting or taking FMLA leave?

If you believe that your employer has retaliated against you for requesting, or taking, FMLA leave, you may have a legal claim.  You have two years from the time of the event to file a suit, or three years if you can prove that your employer’s misconduct was willful.  Victims of retaliation may be compensated for lost wages, reinstatement of your job or promotion, attorney’s fees and other related losses.

For more information about FLMA or other Employment Law issues, contact Lajuana Ransaw at lransaw@smithwelchlaw.com or 770-957-3937.  Smith, Welch, Webb and White is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the State of Georgia with expertise in this area of law. We have an uncompromising commitment to serving our clients and our community. Our team of experts routinely handles a wide range of legal matters, and will provide outstanding service for you, your family or your business.

 

Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.


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